Yovani Flores


        Sometimes when we have early release from school we sneak away to play marbles with the grimy boys at the end of my street. Me and my sisters hide around corners away from Abuela’s front windows and prying eyes. Our afternoons ends too fast because we’re stuck listening to sore losers talk caca - and complain. Pedro’s the worst one: thinking he’s boss all the time, trying to change the rules whenever I win one of his colorful beauties. Pedro can’t stand losing to a girl like me; he even tries to boss my words, “Hey, I told you not to call them beauties...that’s not allowed!” I just keep reminding him to run for Mayor of sore losers.

It doesn’t matter...I’ve been collecting beauties since third grade and he’s still pouting. I smile into his flustered eyes whenever he throws a fit, “If you ever win them back you call them whatever you want dummy.” I dance and jam out my famous collection of Pedro’s Beauty songs,“Ooooh my deep blue crystals with shades of green matching your jealous face. Juicy speckles of pulp from mouth-watering tangerines as sweeeeet as mango skies flowing like lace. Those velvet clumps of bloody pomegranate seeds reminding meeeee of Pedro’s face.”

Cheers explode, “Ha, what a burn Pedro!” Our bodies curl into rolly-polly balls, laughing and muffling our mouths with dirty fingers. Pedro’s arms are tight across his chest, then he bends and laughs all over his scabby knees. My laugh crumbles quickly. I picture Abuela marching towards us in her chanclas and a bata. She’s known for launching personal investigations wearing slippers - and a housedress. A sudden screech of twisting metal cries like a nightmare soundtrack: shattered glass like floating diamonds, squeals of spinning tire in front of the school doors right  across from Abuela’s window. Fat clouds with full bellies release fumes and hazy smoke over the Chicago skyline. Our cheers and laughter...gone.

A big green Impala slumps over the curb like a drunken old man. It reminds me of Papi’s green Impala. Two shadows start moving behind a foggy window and a husky voice hovers over a woman’s cries like a tuba. We inch closer; a snaky man with clear blue eyes balances a cigarette between his thin lips, a fork of words swallow the woman’s face, “Shut the fuck up puta!” His scrawny knuckles peek between strands of her quivering rag doll hair. Thumping drums vibrate in my throat every time her head hits the dashboard, doom, doom, doom. And we are zombies. Us tough girls from Humboldt Park. Quiet. Powerless.

He slinks around cutting between us like a ghost. A puff of dust explodes each time his boots land on her body. Then two guys finally come running out of nowhere, “Mira, mira leave her alone! Oye, que pasa aqui bro? The fucks wrong with you meng!” They move in close until the snake man hisses forward like a king cobra, “Mira, get the fuck out of my face bro! He points at her, “that’s my business cabron - so saca la cuchara!” I’m furious, watching them act like mummies, “Hey, hey you…don’t just stand there like you’re all scared! Kick his ass estupid head and talking about spoons! Just jump him man!”

A small crowd gathers. He takes his time kicking her again, and again. More eyes look away pushing shaking fists deep inside their pockets. Us: screaming in the background but nobody even looks at us, and one by one they walk away. The serpent uncoils slowly behind the steering wheel. No reason to hurry: no one will help her. Nobody wants to be bothered. Not sure why my feet are running along side the Impala, I pound his windows furiously, cursing his empty eyes while carrying the weight of Abuela’s gaze on my shoulders. Others are running close behind: with curled fists we hammer his dirty windows until his face just fades away.

Three of us sprint towards Abuela’s house to call the cops. I nestle into Abuela’s window frame leaning into her warm chest like a baby bird, “Abuela what’s saca la cuchara?” She presses her soft chin against my ear, “bueno mija, no te metas donde no te importa.” I felt a string of words slide in one breath, ‘Don’t stick your nose where it doesn’t belong.’ A blue and white car finally appears at the curb; no sirens, no screeches,  no one even steps out of the car. We swarm the car within seconds plastering our sweaty palms on the windows while spouting details in one long breath, “Hey police, police! Listen, policeman listen! A woman was getting beat up by this skinny man in a big green Impala. She was screaming; we saw him kicking her right there by those black tire marks. Then two guys showed but they got scared when snake man said some stuff about a spoon telling them they better mind their own business! Man, those stupid guys think they’re so bad but they didn’t even try to help!”

Not sure why the cops didn’t say anything. They smirk at each other like grown-ups do when children tell funny stories; they shoot grins in our faces and drive away with flat dead eyes. I sat on a hot curb watching sticky black tar stretch on the soles of my Converse. Heartbeats pumping like drums, flashes of Papi’s face appear - and Mami’s voice fills my head. It was a late school night and Mami still wasn’t home from playing lotería. We peeked through door crack watched Papi pace the hallway with a belt in hand. Yelling started as soon Mami climbed the creaky stairs. Her long finger is pointed in Papi’s pale face. She practically dared him to hit her. Us: still like frozen popsicles. Papi crashed on the sofa and we sunk into Mami’s bed. No one spoke.Me and the white ceiling stare each other down; streams of tears puddle in corners of my pillow. My stomach tightens while I whisper a series of schemes to rescue her. That crying rag doll of a woman in a green Impala. That one who didn’t get to stir la cuchara today, or be the boss of anybody - not even herself.   


Yovani Flores is an emerging Puerto Rican writer, poet from Chicago, Illinois. She lives, and writes in Phoenix, Arizona.  El Llorón debuted in Chicana/Latina Studies Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS). Yovani Flores received a writing award for El Llorón from Curbside Splendor Publishing, which was also featured on NPR: All Things Considered - Three Minute Fiction. Her poem, Saliendo del Sueño was published by Centro Voces, Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter, CUNY. In 2011, Flores co-wrote and produced the Award Winning short film Thresholds, a debut film by Las Pilonas Productions: http://youtu.be/w6EQv_v4S88. As Co-Founder of Las Pilonas Productions, Flores presented in Festival Screenings, Q&A Panels, Educational programming, Youth Workshops and Conferences at MALCS Summer Institute - USCLA, Phoenix College Latino Film Festival, Reel Rasquache Art & Film Fest - Los Angeles, and One and Ten in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2012 Yovani Flores produced a Photo Journal Video Dr. Ana Castillo Visits Tucson Students on Cinco de Mayo: published in La Tolteca. After the Tucson event Flores reviewed the documentary film Precious Knowledge, published in La Tolteca eZine @ www.anacastillo.com.